Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Poplar Farms Research Field Day

So I can't believe it's been a year already since the First Poplar Farms Sales and Service Research Field Day in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.  But on September 8 it was time for the Second one.  It was held at their impressive Research Center where they have a large amount of plotwork on fertilizer and seed research.
On the day before, several of us met to plan the field day.  So like another late summer field day that I have been involved in, it poured.  While standing under the tent listening to the rain, we see Steve Kuenstler and Bill Brunner of Poplar Farms, Retail Partner Steve Darrington, Doug of Terra Max, Regional Sales Manger Bob Baxter and Field Agronomist Dan Peterson.  Many ideas were hatched, and some were even good.  Everyone was hopeful that the rain would go away for tomorrow.
Rain had been an issue for much of the growing season here near the banks of Lake Michigan. Although it did stop for the field day, you could see from the drone's view what happened to some of the corn from excess rainfall.  The left part of the block had all of the nitrogen fertilizer applied around planting vs in-season with Y-Drops.  Split or in-season applications give a better chance of nitrogen retention for the crop.  Same amounts, just different timing.
There was plenty to see and discuss.  Patrick Brunner shows some of the nitrogen plots.
Bill Brunner announces that the root pit has been converted to a swimming hole.
There was a variety of field equipment on site set up for accurate and easy application of liquid fertilizer.
Agronomist Dan talks about higher alfalfa hay quality with foliar applications of Sure-K vs broadcast potash on this variety plot.  And he had the numbers to prove it.  Most of these guys are from dairy farms, so it should hit pretty close to home.
There was a morning and afternoon session with lunch in the middle.  Tent monitor Bob keeps order. It was all good and food was eaten, not used for a food fight.  How wasteful would that be?
Dan, white hat in the middle, leads a lively discussion on soybean fertilizer options.  It's still a little muddy, but after lunch no one cares.
Steve K leads the variety tour.  Lot's of choices to see and consider.  Fortunately all of this corn was sidedressed with High NRG-N through Y-Drops, so it was good and green in the sun that finally broke through.  (Now that is a nice picture with all of the signs in a row.  And the crops all fertilized with AgroLiquid makes it even nicer.)
Now no one was going to escape without listening to me talk about planter fertilizer options for corn, and I've got the ears to prove it.  On the ground I mean, from the plots behind me.  Pro-Germinator shamed 10-34-0 and 6-18-6.  Additions of Micro 500, Sure-K and experimental carbon/biological product C-15 were also evaluated and produced big ears.  I was especially happy to see a baby in attendance there at the feet of his mother.  You can't start too young to learn about corn fertility. Although I had to keep waking him up, but I think he got most of it.  
So that was a fun day, as are all my trips across the lake.  Looking forward to my next visit.  And if you are in the area next September, or even if you're not, come to the Third Research Field Day.  No rain and good food are guaranteed.  And plots too.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Remember Dan the Apple Man?

So I got a call yesterday from Dan Janzen.  Some of you may remember him.  He is a former NCRS research assistant who was very instrumental in the planning and implementation of the NCRS apple orchard.  He started in March of 2011 (see the blog on 3/5/11) and here he was yesterday in the orchard, having stopped by for a visit. There were some stray apples here and there and they still tasted great.
And here he was on March 5, 2011 riding on the planter inserting apple trees into the ground.  It was a challenge in the high-density configuration where trees are 36 inches apart.  He used a special tape marked for placing the trees.  It was a handful, but worked out great.
And here is how it looked in the spring of 2011 after planting was complete.  It's come a long ways since he planted it, and it is one of the leading apple research orchards in the country.
But Dan had other callings in his life, as he left a few years later for Missionary work.  He and his wife have been to South America and South Sudan, and are just a few weeks from moving permanently to South Sudan.  He was in the Lansing area picking up some last supplies for the trip. So it was nice to see him again and glad he called.  The others at the NCRS who were here when he was also enjoyed seeing him, and we all wished him luck.  

As you can imagine, his work is dependent on support from those back home.  If you are interested in learning more or giving support, send me an e-mail and I'll make the connection.  

Oklahoma Wheat Pasture Plans

So visitors to the AgroLiquid website should remember this on the REAL Ranchers part.  (Although the site has moved on, but the memory lingers.)
But that guy is a Real Rancher, and also is a Retail Partner for AgroLiquid.  His name is Burt Hutson, and I had the opportunity to see him and his real ranch out West near Elk City, Oklahoma in mid-August.  It was a pretty evening when we showed up.  (And unfortunately those weren't rain clouds.)
That's Burt there talking to Sale Account Manager Brian Waugh.  (Burt's on the left).  Burt has been a strong advocate of using AgroLiquid's Pro-Germinator + High NRG-N for establishment of wheat pasture.  Burt's cattle always produce top quality beef and he has quite a reputation for that.  In fact, he is acquainted with a Vice President of the Noble Foundation, which is a well known independent, non-profit research institution in Ardmore, OK.  They have an agriculture division whose mission is to help farmers and ranchers be better farmers and ranchers.  We have tried in the past to cooperate on some research projects, but haven't been successful.  But from Burt's connection and discussions of plant nutrient inputs, they actually sought us out.  
So Brian and I met with the Vice President of the Agricultural Division, an Agricultural Systems research manager and a Business Development manager to talk about how fertilizing wheat pasture with AgroLiquid can lead to better feeding of grazing cattle.  Well it was kind of late to set up a bonafide research plot, but they offered an alternative that could be conducted yet this fall.  There was a 140 acre piece of land that had been in grass pasture for a number of years that could be split and planted to wheat for cattle pasture.  Half AgroLiquid and half whatever they would recommend. They would put cattle out on it and would be able to keep track of cattle weight gains through an automatic scale system at their water stations. I've seen one and they're cool.  Plus we will analyze for feed quality from the wheat.  So that was quite an opportunity.  But time was short to get this done.  With the help of Retail Partner Heritage Liquid Fertilizer over in Marlow, we were able to get it planted and fertilized with AgroLiquid on September 23.  I was not there for the planting, but Brian was and he sent me these pics. 

Loading up the Sunflower drill with seed wheat.  Sunflowers do a good job planting no-till wheat.
Did I mention that the field has not been in crops for some time?  It was recently sprayed down with Roundup, but is still a planting challenge.
These headless guys are checking seed placement.  I guess it found some soil down there through the thatch.  The whole field was planted at this time, but only half got AgroLiquid.  The other half would get some dry fertilizer blown on some time later, as that is their normal practice.
So how is it looking now? Well I am on a fertilizer mission next week to find out.  I usually don't like to talk about things before I see them, but I'm feeling confident.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Harvest Variety at the NCRS

 So as you can imagine, it is a frantic time in the spring to get all of the fertilizer plots established.  And then making applications through the summer. So it is with great anticipation that harvest comes around and we can see what happened.  A month ago was apple harvest, and believe it or not, I actually helped.  This is another job of hand labor, and all help is appreciated.  In fact just about everyone at the NCRS helped with harvest and others came out from the Ashley plant and the office.  Below we see Zouheir and Senior Finance Manager Craig's wife Jackie helping with Honeycrisp harvest.
 The trees were loaded up, this being the third harvest.
Craig and Horticulture Research Manager Jacob show off the fruits (literally) of their labor.
Last week it was time to harvest the Concord Grape plots.  I have helped with this before, but there was a good crew in place this year.  The grapes are very pretty and smell really grapey.  (Is that a word?  Well it smells like a thousand grape jelly jars were left open.)
Here we see Tim, Quinten and Rene's head as they pick the bunches.  Quiz time: What annoying insect also loves grapes?  Answer: wasps.  They get so thick in the hot afternoons that harvest must quit.  But they did finish.
It's not all just picking.  This is research, and Tim records the plot yield.
Potato harvest was just this past week.  Here is Tim at the controls of the digger as Renee and intern Jake (who was pressed into fall labor) collect the plot spuds for weights.  They would be graded later.
 This has been a wet fall.  In fact, the field crop crew is still waiting to plant wheat.  But the corn was dry enough to start harvest yesterday.  It is rare to harvest corn before soybeans, but they were too wet. Nice to get started as they did here on Farm 3.
So it's going to be like this for the next several weeks as crops come to their exciting conclusion.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Treasure Valley Hop Harvest

So it was near the end of Hop Harvest here in the Treasure Valley.  I had never really been around hops at this stage of the growing operation, so I thought I would share how it's done.  Idaho ranks third for hop growing states behind Washington and Oregon.  Near as I can tell there are over 3000 acres of hops in the Treasure Valley West of Boise.  There are another 1700 or so in far Northern Idaho.  The first hops were grown here in 1934 just after the end of prohibition.  (Woo Hoo!)

Hops are grown in Hop Yards as they are called.  The perennial plant grows up strings attached to wires which are suspended by these poles.  At harvest time, a machine cuts the vines and piles them in a truck that is following the harvester.  Unfortunately, as it was the end of harvest, we were never able to get close to a harvester, and were too impatient to wait for the one we did see to make a round and get close to where we were.  But you can kind of see it in the background of the picture, with the unharvested vines growing up to the top of the string.
 Here is a close up of a vine laden with hops ready for harvest.

The harvest trucks are actually just a small flat bed with panels on the sides that hold a pile of hop vines.  Then they drive back to the processing plant for unloading.  The vines are attached to hooks on cables that carry the vine up and then over into the moving chain that sheds the hops.  (I'm sure there are correct terms for all of this, but I skipped that part of the lesson.  So bear with me.)  Not sure of the age, but this place looked pretty old, as did the other hop processor places we saw.  
This chain roller is moving really fast and knocks the hops off of the vine as it goes through.  The hops fall below onto a conveyor that takes them to the drying room.  After the vines are free of hops, they go into some sort of grinder that chops them up.  More on that shortly.
 Here are Bruce and Gary in the building that has that de-hopper apparatus.  It is really loud.  Ear plugs are a must, although unfortunately the workers there didn't seem to have any.  We were only there for not even a minute which was long enough.
Here is the big drying room.  There are a series of bays where the conveyor distributes hops onto the floor.  There is air being blown through a screen in the floor that dries them.  I don't know the drying content to finish the operation.  But when dry they are somehow pushed through those doors on the right and wrapped into bales for delivery to some brewery somewhere.
Here is one of the drying bays loaded with hops.  There is a woman who diligently spreads them out as they come off the conveyor.  Now that's a job.
 Here are some of the hops from the drying pile.  They really don't smell that great and don't know who was the first person that looked at those and said "Hey, I'll bet those would make beer taste good."
 That pile over there is from the chopped up vines, and they are loaded into trucks who haul them off to be spread someplace.  Not sure if they go back into the hop yard.  Didn't see any of that, but they are going somewhere, one after another.
Business must be good as here is a newly built hop yard that will begin growth next year.  Maybe by then we will get some AgroLiquid positioned for that.
I understand that there is some AgroLiquid used on hops somewhere.  Will have to learn more about that.  But glad I was in the right place at the right time to see how the hops go from vine to ready for brewing.

Treasure Valley Visit

So last week I had the opportunity to travel out to the Treasure Valley.  Where's that you ask?  OK, I didn't know it either till I got there. But it's the area to the West of Boise, ID. Boise is in the Western side of the state and several rivers converge on the area to form the Snake River, and formed a flat valley.  The ground there is very rich and fertile, as long as you have water.  The crop diversity there is pretty amazing.  It is one of the country's leading suppliers of yellow onions.  Onions are mostly fertilized by (gasp) dry fertilizer applied in the fall, but with 32% UAN applied through drip tape.  
This grower wisely applied Pro-Germinator + Kalibrate + Micro 500 + High NRG-N through the drip tape during the growing season.  Makes sense, and they look great.  They have been lifted out of the ground and are now awaiting harvest.

AgroLiquid's Retail Partner out here is Gary Schwieger of Soil Logic.  Gary is pretty new to retail partnering but has some AgroLiquid out in a number of fields on a number of crops.  That's Gary and Sales Account Manager Bruce Keck admiring some of the onions in the field here.  There were onions being harvested all over and trucks loaded with onions headed all over the country.

There are a number of crops grown for seed.  Seed that is, for planting to grow more crops elsewhere.  I would have never have figured out what this crop is.  So I'll spare you and say that it's endive.  It is a leafy vegetable, although I'm not sure I have ever had any.  It looks like Chicory.  And this will be a very good crop of endive seed since it was fertilized with AgroLiquid.
 We went over to a University of Idaho research farm and saw these apple trees.  Look at how they are grown, I guess to make it easier to harvest.  And these were sprayed with a clay coating to protect them from the sun I guess.  And it was hot in the 90's last week, which is much above average.  They looked ripe to me.
 Idaho is widely known as the potato state, and here is one very large field of potatoes that is ready to harvest.  I didn't see a lot of potatoes here in the Treasure Valley, as most are grown over in Eastern Idaho.

 Here is another seed crop, this time carrot seed.  This guy had a big semi-trailer full of carrot seed from just 15 acres.  It is a pretty valuable trailer right there.
 Quite a few sugarbeets are grown in the Treasure Valley.  As with many crops, dry fertilizer is applied in the fall, worked in, and then the beds are formed and then wait for spring planting.  They don't get much snow here, so fertilizer loss isn't a real concern.  They form beds as they rely on furrow irrigation.  And all they want to do in the spring is plant.  Well we are going to try some AgroLiquid apps here to see what works best.  I'm excited.
 Another crop where AgroLiquid is in use is on these Riesling wine grapes.
They said they are about three to four weeks from harvest.  The fertilizer was applied through the drip irrigation system you can see about a foot off the ground.  And also through some foliar applications.
They look good to me.  There are grapes everywhere.
 Now here's a crop I certainly recognize.  This corn was fertilized with a planter application of Pro-Germinator + Micro 500 and sidedressed with High NRG-N.  Makes sense.
 This had a different planter fertilizer, and had urea broadcast for nitrogen.  Well looks a little short to me, but we'll see.  Growers that we met are anxious to use some AgroLiquid because it is different and offers advantages to what is being used now.  But they have to try it out first, as this is a new area for AgroLiquid.  But so far so good.
So in addition to all of this, I set up some research trials for next year that will give some data on best applications for AgroLiquid in this land of dry fertilizer.  And then it will truly be a Treasure Valley.